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Free Content Assessment of plant species diversity associated with the carob tree ( Ceratonia siliqua, Fabaceae) at the Mediterranean scale

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Background and aims – The thermophilous woodlands of the Mediterranean region constitute reservoirs of genetic resources for several fruit trees. Among them, the carob tree (Ceratonia siliqua) is a key component of traditional Mediterranean agroecosystems but its ecology was never assessed at the scale of its whole distribution area. Fortunately, phytosociological literature shelters invaluable resources for several issues in conservation, among them the possibility to analyse plant biodiversity at regional or continental scale. Here, we present the results of a comprehensive survey of the phytosociological literature associated to carob tree.

Methods – We collected 1542 floristic relevés performed in 18 geographical areas distributed around the Mediterranean in which the presence of C. siliqua was recorded. Species composition of the plant communities was analysed by multivariate ordination and hierarchical classification, and species diversity was evaluated by rarefaction and prediction analyses of Hill numbers.

Key results – Multivariate analyses revealed that plant communities associated with the carob tree are well differentiated between the Western and Eastern basins. A wider range of floristic differentiation is revealed in the Western basin where the vegetation reaches its maximal heterogeneity. By comparison, in the Eastern basin the plant assemblages associated with the carob tree are more homogeneous and with a lower species richness but a higher Simpson diversity.

Conclusions – The large ecological range of the Mediterranean carob trees is potentially an important evolutionary legacy for the conservation of genetic resources and seed sourcing for new uses such as restoration ecology.

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Keywords: BIODIVERSITY; BIOGEOGRAPHY; CAROB TREE; CERATONIA SILIQUA; CONSERVATION; CROP WILD RELATIVE; MEDITERRANEAN; NATURAL RESOURCES; SPECIES DIVERSITY

Document Type: Regular Paper

Publication date: August 22, 2018

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